The European Gaming and Betting Association (EGBA) has expressed deep concerns over the alarming scale of Italy’s online gambling black market. Citing a report by La Gazzetta dello Sport, the association said the country’s black market for online gambling is estimated to be valued at nearly €1 billion ($1.05 billion) per year.
This sum is equivalent to the total combined regulated online gambling revenue of eight other European Union (EU) countries, according to EGBA. As per the association, the primary factor contributing to this flourishing black market is the country’s ban on gambling advertising, which appears to favor illegal operators, prompting calls for a revision of the existing regulatory framework.
According to EGBA, Italian gamblers place bets amounting to a staggering €25 billion ($26.47 billion) annually on the black market, with a substantial €18.5 billion ($19.58 billion), or 75% of this total, being spent on unlicensed gambling websites. As a result, EGBA estimates that approximately €1 billion in online gross gaming revenue in Italy is lost to black market operators each year.
“The significant size of Italy’s online black market is concerning, yet it is not surprising given that Italy has one of Europe’s strictest advertising regimes for its licensed gambling companies. The country’s ban on advertising for licensed gambling operators is clearly favoring the black market, Maarten Haijer, Secretary General, EGBA, said in a statement.
“Without a sufficient level of advertising, there is no real way for Italians to tell the difference between a gambling website, which is licensed in Italy – and applies the country’s consumer protection rules – and one that is not. It is evident that enforcement action against black market operators is not sufficient, and that the government needs to revise its advertising rules for gambling to ensure Italian citizens can be well-informed about the licensed websites in the country.”
A notable concern arising from this scenario is that many Italian players are engaging in wagering activities on websites located outside the EU. These offshore platforms may not provide even the most basic level of consumer protection, highlights EGBA, leaving Italian gamblers vulnerable.
In response to this growing issue, Italy’s Customs and Monopolies Agency (ADM) has taken action by blocking over 9,800 unlicensed gambling websites in the current year alone, marking a significant increase of 400 websites compared to the previous year, EGBA said.
“The protection of customers is a key priority for EGBA and it stands against gambling websites that target the EU market but operate outside EU law and fail to provide necessary consumer safeguards for Europeans,” EGBA said.
In light of this, the association said it is imperative that Italian authorities take proactive steps to increase awareness among Italian gamblers regarding the associated risks of using unlicensed platforms situated outside the EU.
Additionally, the association says measures should be implemented to guide Italian players towards licensed operators that adhere to regulated responsible gambling practices and the country’s established regulatory framework.